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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

More than 10,000 people apply for visa amnesty in Dubai

Large numbers expected to return to their home countries while others have been allowed to stay

Amnesty applicants await their turn at the application centre in Al Awir. Antonie Robertson / The National
Amnesty applicants await their turn at the application centre in Al Awir. Antonie Robertson / The National

More than 10,000 people without a valid visa have applied for assistance under the UAE's amnesty programme that began last week, officials said on Wednesday.

Figures showed a total of 10,797 people have approached immigration centres in Dubai requesting help. Statistics for Abu Dhabi and the rest of the country have yet to be released.

Of the 10,000, nearly 3,500 people applied for a new visa and the ability to stay in the country, while 2,809 chose to return to their home country.

Many others are still at the processing stage and are reported to be missing key documents including passports.

“A total of 10,797 people had already approached immigration centres in Dubai,” said Brig Khalaf Al Ghaith, spokesman for the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai.

“Tens of millions of dirhams of fines have been waived under the UAE’s visa amnesty in Dubai," he said.

The Government's latest, three-month programme began on August 1 and will run until October 31.

Immigration centres across the country have been packed with applicants and embassy officials expect numbers to remain high as word spreads and more people decide to come forward.

Brig Khalaf Al Ghaith warned those who had already started the amnesty process to ensure all their required paperwork was completed before the end of the programme.

“Those who overstay after the end of the amnesty will have to pay fines,” he said. “For instance, a person who applied for an exit permit to leave the country will be fined Dh25 per day if he or she overstays after the amnesty deadline.

“Applicants must finish their procedures, whether for visa renewal or exit permits."

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Read more on the visa amnesty:

Editorial: Seize this opportunity to sort your visa issues

Hundreds turn out as UAE's three-month visa amnesty begins

WATCH: UAE begins three-month visa amnesty programme

'Final chance' for UAE's illegal residents as amnesty approaches

Widows and divorcees tell of legal limbo strain as UAE's new mercy visas unveiled

Special report: Unwed expat mothers in legal limbo hope new visa laws will help them

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Under previous UAE amnesties in 2007 and 2013, more than 340,000 residents with expired visas came forward.

Common scenarios faced by those applying included employers failing to process visas correctly and mothers who gave birth to children in the UAE but had not registered them.

On Wednesday, officials announced they had referred 200 people currently in jail for attempting to enter the country illegally to the scheme.

Lt Col Abdullah Khamis, a Dubai Police official, said each of the 200 had been arrested by border officials over the last eight months and would now be sent back home.

“They’ve also been referred to the amnesty centres in Dubai so they can be issued with exit permits,” he said.

People queue to enter a Visa Amnesty Centre in Al Awir, Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National
People queue to enter a Visa Amnesty Centre in Al Awir, Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National

On Wednesday, hundreds of men and women queued for help at an immigration centre in Al Aweer, Dubai.

Brig Al Ghaith urged individuals not to bring their children with them, however, as long waits often proved exhausting for youngsters.

“The number of people coming to our centres was expected,” he said. “But people shouldn’t bring their children. It isn’t suitable for those under 18.”

Brig Rashed Buflasa, director general for fire and rescue at Dubai Civil Defence, said emergency personnel were on hand to deal with anyone who became unwell while queuing.

He said ambulance services had so far dealt with eight cases of fatigue cases at the centres.